Eurocopter EC-135: Aircraft of the Week

Eurocopter EC-135

Model

The Eurocopter EC-135 comes with a very impressive 3d cockpit with photorealistic texturing – one example of very few aircraft in Flightgear.

Unfortunately, many of the switches are not yet functional, and the procedures to start the engine are very simple. Some work on support for more detailed procedures would be beneficial for the helicopter. Nevertheless, the realistic looks of the cockpit create a very nice feeling of immersion into the simulation.

The exterior model, for which a variety of liveries are available, is likewise very impressive – it makes use of state-of-the-art reflection shaders and has animations for lights, the rotors and the doors.

If the model crashes, the crash is also (partially) animated by showing the broken rotor blades.

Flight characteristics

Lacking any experience with any helicopter in reality, it is somewhat difficult to judge how well the FDM is done. Helicopters in Flightgear are not easy to fly due to the overall high degree of realism. However, compared with other models such as the Bo-105 or the R-22, the EC-135 handles certainly a bit easier and is a suitable helicopter for a beginner to learn the basics of helicopter flight. Also as compared to many other helicopters in Flightgear, the EC-135 has a rather powerful engine and can quickly climb vertically.

The model shows a lot of phenomena characteristic for helicopters: For instance, the rotors generate a lot more lift in forward flight than in hover flight, which needs to be compensated for when approaching for landing. In slow or hover flight, the EC-135 can swing like a pendulum under the rotor – this is a very nasty condition and difficult to deal with. The torque of the main rotor is clearly felt and must be compensated by the rear rotor, although this is not as tricky to balance as with other helicopters. The helicopter can easily be flown backwards or sidewards – it’s however tricky not to lose control when doing so. Another interesting experience is to hover at high altitude, then reduce lift via the collective – the helicopter drops down rapidly, and one can observe the blades spinning up.

My personal wishlist

More functionality in the cockpit and more implemented procedures would be a very nice addition to the model.

Things to experience

There are plenty of heliports in the Flightgear world. One nice tour is to load the Vinson AI scenario, and, starting out from the carrier itself, visit its escort group (provided you don’t mind that it’s not a US Navy helicopter…). Most of the ships have a helipad where you can land and enjoy the view you usually don’t get to appreciate. Also, many buildings have helipads on their roofs. It’s somewhat tricky to land on such a tight spot, but it can be done, and usually results into a good feeling of accomplishment.

Thorsten

FlightGear v2.4.0 Released

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Overview

The FlightGear development team is proud to announce the release of version 2.4.0 of its free open source flight simulation program. FlightGear 2.4.0 reflects over one and a half years of development and incorporates several new and exciting features, as well as numerous bug fixes.

One of the hallmark features of this new FlightGear version consists of a completely overhauled weather module. While it was previously already possible to load realistic weather by downloading (or creating custom) METAR weather reports, the current FlightGear 2.4.0 version takes weather generation an order of a magnitude further by applying the laws of physics to the reported conditions and by determining how the atmosphere interacts with the terrain. This results not only in customizable weather, but also in all the exciting phenomena that occur at the boundaries between different weather systems. Among the numerous phenomena included in the weather simulation are fog layers that are limited in altitude, cold fronts, thermals, cloud formation in updraft winds along mountain ridges, and many, many more. In FlightGear 2.4.0 checking the weather is no longer a luxury option, it is essential for flight safety.

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Adding to the improved visual experience, FlightGear 2.4.0 introduces numerous graphical enhancements. By employing state-of-art computer graphic techniques, FlightGear 2.4.0 is capable of rendering highly realistic mountain surfaces, 3-dimensional cityscapes, or shiny metallic surfaces. Through the application of these new computer graphics, water moves realistically and sunlight is reflected from its surface. Many new aircraft models are so realistic and detailed it is almost possible to see oneself reflected in their hull. If that isn’t enough, FlightGear 2.4.0 can draw a full 3D image, through one of the many stereoscopic rendering options.

FlightGear’s user experience is also enhanced through several improvements to the software. New and extended autopilot controllers have resulted in a dramatic improvement in autopilot stability in many aircraft. Additional cockpit systems such as TCAS, and EICAS systems –as well as other realistic aircraft reactions to the environment– provide unique new challenges and opportunities. And if these systems still can’t prevent one from getting lost, it’s always possible to pull up a moving map, or use the new and improved heads up displays.

Under the surface, FlightGear 2.4.0 also introduces several innovations. A brand new experimental HLA interface layer allows for real time communication between several independently operating modules, either running on a single computer, or on a cluster of networked machines. Eventually, HLA allows for a complete modularization of FlightGear, and its integration with professional high-end flight simulator hard- and software components.

Finally, FlightGear 2.4.0 has a built-in option to keep its scenery up to date and download new scenery areas on the fly. While this was already possible by using an external program, this feature is now incorporated in FlightGear itself. The many new and updated scene models all around the world will keep one busy exploring the world of FlightGear. With a choice of nearly 500 different aircraft, from historical to bleeding edge, from ultra-lights to the ultimate flying heavy metal, there is something to cater to each one’s taste. In FlightGear 2.4.0 it’s no longer the sky that is the limit; it’s the imagination.

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FlightGear 2.4.0 Fact sheet

Program enhancements:

Aircraft operations:

  • A new head-up display (HUD) system
  • An in-sim moving map
  • ATC/ATIS improvements
  • EICAS instruments are available on a selected number of aircraft
  • Improved autopilots
  • TCAS, works with AI and multiplayer aircraft, provides aural warnings for conflicting traffic and is also capable of driving a realistic traffic display. AI aircraft also respond to TCAS alerts and take evasive action
  • Updates to the KLN89 GPS.
  • Tankers now refuel with any callsign, and can enable/disable refueling in flight.

AI system

  • A standalone AI flightplan generator program
  • Approaching aircraft now follow realistic approach trajectories
  • Ballistic objects can be slaved to any AI object
  • Improved AI ballistics behavior
  • More communication / interaction between AI aircraft and ground. Support for multiple frequencies for AI/ATC interaction.
  • Speed-up for AI traffic initialization by means of an aircraft usage statistics collection mechanism

AI Traffic

  • General and commercial aviation traffic at LOWI airport
  • Malaysian Airways / Kuala Lumpur based traffic
  • Traffic for Adria (Croatia)

Flight dynamics

  • A new MIL-STD Turbulence model has been added to the JSBSim flight dynamics simulation engine

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Environment

  • A local weather system to simulate physically correct local weather phenomena
  • Discard of outdated METAR weather information sources and improved METAR parsing
  • New Fog layers with limited elevation
  • Scenery can be downloaded and installed on-the-fly via an in-sim TerraSync interface
  • Specific multiplayer pilots can be selectively ignored

Interface

  • Complete overhaul of the autopilot system
    • New digital controllers
    • Flexible use of input and output values
    • Support for mathematical expressions
    • Usable for generic numeric data processing as a “property rule” system
  • Better integration of separate weather systems
  • New support of draggable 3d objects like throttle-levers
  • Support for textures generated from VNC clients
  • Unified runway selection code that is shared between user controlled and AI controlled aircraft
  • New HLA interface for distributed simulations
  • New on demand loading of Nasal modules
  • New support for external (aka real) Garmin 400/500 WAAS Units

Visual effects

  • Various graphics improvements using shaders, including 3D urban effects, reflections, water, rock textures, lightmaps, skydome scattering
  • Easy GUI-based access to a host of stereoscopic 3D rendering effects
  • Panoramic distortion
  • Persistent contrails
  • New standalone 2D-Panel rendering utility
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Bug fixes

  • Fixed METAR live weather (http requests from NOAA)
  • Fixed many sources of the infamous NaN errors
  • Improved stability by fixing many segmentation faults, deadlocks and memory leaks
  • Improved placement of random objects
  • Fixed inconsistencies with scenery tile scheduling
  • The replay system now works again as advertised
  • The ground proximity warning system (GPWS) works reliably now
  • Runway lights also working with ATI graphics cards now (rendering option to disable point-sprites)
  • Many, many more. See our bugtracker for an extensive list

Highlighted new and improved aircraft

  • A new and highly detailed IAR-80 (a Romanian-produced WW2 fighter)
  • A new highly detailed Piper Cub
  • Airbus A320 Family (318/319/320/321)
  • An improved P-51D, completely remodeled and containing improved flight dynamics
  • Boeing 717
  • Boeing 757-200
  • Bombardier CRJ700 Series (700/900/1000)
  • Bombardier CRJ200
  • Douglas A-4F Skyhawk
  • Improvements to the Boeing 787
  • MiG-15bis
  • PZL-Mielec M18B “Dromader”
  • Short S.23 Empire flying boat
  • The Boeing 737NG Series
  • The Boeing 747-400 and 777-200 have received lots of improvements
  • The Douglas DC-8 Series
  • The Eurocopter EC130 B4 Helicopter
  • Tyre smoke effects on many aircraft
  • Zeppelin LZ 121 Nordstern

Start Downloading!

FlightGear Flight Pro Sim Statement

Version 1.4a

As many people will be aware, there is a (self described) “new” flight simulator product that is being widely and actively marketed at the moment under various names – Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator, etc. These “new” simulators are simply a rebranding of the FlightGear open-source flight simulator. However, the marketing tactics of the Flight Pro Sim guys have caused more than a bit of confusion with end users. To help provide some clarity and answer some common questions, we (the core FlightGear development team) felt it was appropriate to make a statement, and provide a FAQ.

FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator that was created in 1996. It is released under the GNU General Public License v2, and as such, it is free to use, modify and distribute with few restrictions. It has been developed with the collaboration of a large number of individuals over the last 14+ years. The complete FlightGear application and source code can be always downloaded for free from http://www.flightgear.org.

Flight Pro Sim is a commercial product that simply rebrands FlightGear. Investigation by a number of the FlightGear developers has found no difference between this and the FlightGear v1.9.1 release other than a change of name. Flight Pro Sim is in no way endorsed or supported by the core FlightGear development team.

Given the similarities between Flight Pro Sim and FlightGear, we would recommend that prospective buyers download FlightGear for free and satisfy themselves that Flight Pro Sim provides worthwhile value for money before purchasing it.

FAQ:

Q: What is the difference between FlightGear and Flight Pro Sim?
A: As far as we have been able to make out, the only difference between FlightGear v1.9.1 and Flight Pro Sim is a change in name throughout the software, and the fact that you have to pay for it.

Q: Is it legal for the makers of Flight Pro Sim to simply re-brand FlightGear ?
A: Under the GNU GPL v2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html) this is legal, provided that they distribute the source code (or make it available). The main issue that FlightGear developers have is the misleading marketing tactics used by pro flight sim that target unsuspecting users who aren’t yet familiar with FlightGear. This is primarily an ethical, not a legal issue.

Q: Is it legal to sell a copy of FlightGear, whether re-branded or not?
A: Yes, provided the seller is in compliance with a number of conditions detailed in the GPL. In fact, those interested in receiving a DVD containing FlightGear may do so through the main FlightGear website, and directly contribute to the project (though they may want to wait for the upcoming release in the new year).

Q: Has Flight Pro Sim paid any money to FlightGear for the rights to the program ?
A: No. No such payment is required, as FlightGear is GPL software. No such payment has been offered, no such payment has been made. Any claims by Flight Pro Sim that they support the FlightGear project are entirely wishful thinking on their part.

Q: Why do the FlightGear developers allow this ?
A: The freedom to modify and enhance FlightGear is a core part of the project, and of open-source in general. Restricting the modifications that are allowed and what people can do with the software goes against that ethos.

Q: Is there any relationship between the makers of Flight Pro Sim and the FlightGear Project?
A: No.

Q: Has Flight Pro Sim contributed to the FlightGear project at all ?
A: No.

Q: I have purchased Flight Pro Sim. Can I get a refund ?
A: That is something you will have to take up with the distributors of Flight Pro Sim.